A Notts dietician who had major bowel surgery when she was 25 will now compete at the world triathlon championships.
Michelle Willcocks, a diabetes specialist dietitian at King’s Mill Hospital, suffered from a condition called ulcerative colitis, which causes inflammation and ulcers in the bowel.
Michelle had to have a pouch which covers her stoma, the end of the bowel, to collect body waste.
However, now aged 31, she has qualified for the world triathlon grand final which will take place in Rotterdam on September 17.
Michelle said: “After undergoing major surgery in 2011, I didn’t even think a podium place in a local triathlon would ever be possible.
“Now, I am about to race the world’s best age group triathletes after winning gold and becoming European champion in June 2017!”
Michelle has already won six gold medals this year alone, including the European triathlon championships in Dusseldorf and three national titles.
Speaking about her surgery, Michelle said: “While poorly I lost two stone in weight, which left me weak and I could barely walk.
“After having my operation I started to rebuild my fitness, strength and endurance and was amazed at just how resilient the human body can be and how much you can push it both physically and mentally – the stoma has not held me back.
“I didn’t realise how ill I was until I had recovered from surgery and could see how much better my quality of life is.”
While working as a full-time dietitian, Michelle has dedicated her life outside of work to triathlon training.
She said: “Since having my surgery, triathlon has become a lifestyle as well as a true passion.
“I feel like my positive work-life balance gives me the time and flexibility to train and achieve my goals and my manager and team at King’s Mill Hospital have been fantastic, giving me lots of support.
“They were also very supportive before my surgery when I started my career in my first dietitian role here at the hospital and suffered intermittent flare ups because of my illness.”
Stoma care specialist Jane Cooke at Sherwood Forest Hospitals, the Trust which runs King’s Mill Hospital, thinks Michelle is a shining example of what people can do despite having major surgery.
She said: “Stoma surgery can have a profound effect on people’s lives but this is a fantastic achievement for Michelle and she’s an inspiration to others who have had surgery.
“Not only has Michelle overcome the hurdles associated with having a stoma pouch in day-to-day life, but she has gone further and overcome the hurdles that come with competing in a triathlon with a pouch too.
“All of us at Sherwood Forest Hospitals wish her the best of luck for next month’s competition.”